What Right Do They Have?

What right do illegal immigrants have to protest in our streets? Do they have any rights whatsoever?

To answer this, I looked to the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights, a sort of Bill of Rights that applies to the Human Race, regardless of nationality or legal status. The Covenant upholds the international right of free speech, while also respecting a country’s ability to restrict access from non-residents.

Regarding the right to free speech and assembly:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
(from Article 19)


As to the rights immigrants have entering another country, including the United States:

1. Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
2. Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
3. The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.
4. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.
(from Article 12)

I open the floor to discussion…

(background to the Covenant on Wikipedia)

6 Replies to “What Right Do They Have?”

  1. We have laws in our Constitution that supersede any guidelines set forth by the UN:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    I don’t see where it says “unless they’re illegal immigrants.” The answer is quite clearly, yes, immigrants legal or otherwise have the right to protest whatever they see fit.

    I think the real discussion should be why don’t we reform our immigration quotas so that people from Mexico can immigrate legally. Right now only about 20,000 people (7% of the total immigration number) from any one country can immigrate to the US per year and obviously that number can’t cover the amount of labor our economy requires from Mexico. We forget that during the first several waves of mass immigration to the US there were no quotas in place, in fact it wasn’t until the 1920s that we had immigration quotas at all.

    If the undocumented workers could easily come to America legally they would. They are not criminals, they are just impoverished workers seeking to better their lives via the American dream. Any one who doesn’t accept that their ancestors did the same thing is living a lie. Just because your relatives came here legally doesn’t make them better than those who have come here illegally, times were different back then and it was much easier to come here.

  2. “They are not criminals, they are just impoverished workers seeking to better their lives via the American dream.”

    They are here ILLEGALLY — what part of that do you not understand? Illegal = against the law = breaking the law. Tell you what — I’ll just move my family into your house and make myself at home. You have to pay my medical bills, pay my kid’s tuition, and give me whatever I want. If you complain about it, then I get to march through the house yelling and screaming and you just have to sit there and take it.

    There’s a LEGAL way to get into the country. If you want to change that by increasing the quotas, knock yourself out. I’ll help with that effort. But encouraging ILLEGAL behavior is BS — Not a lesson I want to teach my child.. By your logic, we should rally for the rights of tax cheats and burglars.

    And don’t try to play the compassion card. Yes, I believe we need to work something out for people who are here and CONTRIBUTING, especially if their innocent kids are US citizens. But they need to pay a price in back taxes, learning the language and studying — just like LEGAL immigrants do. And their employers need to pony up those back taxes, too. But if you chose to come here ILLEGALLY, you have no right to expect public services paid for by the taxes of those who play by the rules — natives and legal immigrants.

    And don’t play the “but they’re cheap labor” card. The minute they become legal in any form, they get minimum wage or more and they’re on the grid anyone. So the cost-savings argument goes away.

    If you want to become a citizen, go through the process and become a contributing, tax-paying member of society. If you don’t want to do that work, then go home. Anything else degrades the value of American citizenship — if we don’t value it, who will?

  3. This argument is flawed that there were no quotas or barriers to immigration, as any Google search on the topic will show.

    For example:
    http://www.bergen.org/AAST/projects/Immigration/laws_restricting_immigration.html
    http://academic.udayton.edu/race/02rights/immigr05.htm

    You can fight to change the immigration laws, but arguing that illegal immigration from Mexico is ok simply because they are seeking to better their lives seems to be weak at best and simply serve to rationalize illegal immigration as a noble act instead of the selfish decision it is.

    What makes Mexican immigration more deserving of special treatment compared to the rest of the world wanting to come here? Are other immigrants NOT trying to better their lives?

    My intention is not to bash Mexican immigrants, but I do want to have a frank and realistic discussion as to why immigration reform is needed, as my understanding is that the only legitimate reasons are purely for pragmatic reasons as our current system is not working.

    I understand everyone is selfish, as capitalism depends on this. The role of govt is to set up a framework so that everyone’s selfish acts do not infringe on the rights of others, and to arbitrate for the occasions when they do.

    This is one of those situations where the “right” and “fair” thing to do, (like addressing global immigration as a whole), may have to succumb to the pragmatic solution to deal with a problem that may be too painful and too large a problem to deal with otherwise.

  4. Rollee: The reality is that the number of illegal immigrants here are in the double digits. Its unfortunate that its gotten to this point. However, we need to be practical in addressing the issue. We can spend hundreds of billions of dollars, and waste law enforcement resources, in what would likely be a failed attempt to find, arrest, and deport most illegal immigrants.
    Or, we need find an effective plan that will take control of whats happening to improve America for the better. I’m all for a drastic increase in border security as a priority. I applaud the Minutemen. But handling the millions already here will take a lot of compromise between elements of the Sensenbrenner Bill as well as McCain/Kennedy Bill.

  5. Lee,

    Just wanted to convey a first-hand observation in response to your comment. Through my school, I became heavily involved in VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) this year. To my surprise, many of my clients were illegal immigrants who wanted to file their federal and state income taxes. (Apparently, a social security number is not necessary; the IRS will readily provide an ITIN numbers.)

    Although this is anecdotal, I think it rebuts your false assumption that all illegal immigrants do not pay taxes.

  6. I, too, am aware of a few that do. But out of 12 million, that number is pretty small. I did not say “all” — my point still stands.

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